Iron is an essential nutrient, as it is needed for blood health. Your body uses iron to make the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through your red blood cells. Your body requires different amounts of iron depending on your age and sex, with women needing more iron than men beginning in adolescence. Adolescent females require more iron in their diets because of puberty, menstrual periods and hormonal changes.
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Iron helps make up many proteins and enzymes in your body, helps transport oxygen through your body and is used for regulating cell growth and differentiation. Without enough iron, you may feel tired, breathless, dizzy, weak and irritable. Teen girls ages 14 to 18 need 15 mg of iron a day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Forty percent of adolescent girls do not get the amount of iron they need from their diets, according to NHS Choices, a UK health information site.
While teen girls need 15 mg of iron a day, teen boys need 11 mg per day, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Teen girls need more iron than teen boys because adolescent girls usually hit puberty during adolescence, and begin menstruating. The blood that is lost includes iron, so teen girls need to consume more iron to make up for the loss. Heavy menstruation and strenuous activities such as sports can make teen girls lose even more iron.
You can get iron from a variety of the foods you eat, including enriched cereals, dried peaches and apricots, lentils, raisins, sardines, kale, baked beans, chick peas, beef liver, eggs, pork, salmon, red beans, turkey, veal, sirloin steak, white beans, almonds, prune juice, sesame seeds and spinach. Teen girls who do not get enough iron from their diets can take iron supplements, and should speak to a doctor to determine how much to take.
Your body's absorption of iron can be affected by the foods you eat. Vitamin C can help your body absorb iron, according to the Center for Young Women's Health. Cow's milk, on the other hand, can decrease your body's absorption of iron, according to KidsHealth.org. Only a blood test can diagnose iron deficiency. If you are low in iron -- a condition called anemia -- you may be prone to fatigue, weakness, paleness and difficulty focusing, which can affect your performance at school and in sports. If you are anemic, talk to your doctor about how to get more iron in your diet without overdoing it. Too much iron can build up over time in your body and lead to organ damage, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.